"I should know what I am doing by now."
"Everyone else is so together."
If those two sentences resonate with you, firstly know this: you are not alone. Then read on ...
As Baby Care author and parenting expert Pinky McKay told Feed Play Love host Shevonne Hunt, new parenthood inspires some of our worst feelings of fear and inadequacy.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
"So many people feel as though they’re failing at something," says Pinky. “And I know that everyone finds it hard to admit it - especially within your mothers or parenting groups.”
Everyone has a challenge to face
The reality is that even if the mum next door looks and sounds like things at her place are going well, it's probably a lot more complicated than she'd like to admit.
"I can tell you everyone is crying in the shower at some point," Pinky reassures us. "Things feel like a mess because life changes so dramatically when you have a baby. But it’s not a mess. You just need time to adjust (and then readjust) when baby’s routine changes.”
You don't have to wave the white flag
Surrender is key to this process, says Pinky - but not giving up.
“Surrender is not about waving the white flag and giving up - it's about acceptance. You can try and wish your way out of what is happening and make [things] different, but really, accepting that you are enough and this is how things are is a better way to get through it.”
Acknowledging that your baby is an unpredictable creature (they all are) is the first step.
“We don’t like unpredictability and so we try to fit our babies into our old life, or fit the outline of a routine we’ve read about in baby books … We also might feel resentful of our lost sleep,” says Pinky.
“Babies pick up on their mother’s energy, so it’s just as important to them that you find a way to step out of the stress.”
Remind yourself that it’s okay to relax
"Sometimes it's okay to just stay in your PJs and sit around all day and maybe watch Netflix with your baby! It’s okay to just drop everything and walk away from it for a while," Pinky believes.
"As soon as you feel rested enough, all the things you’ve put off will be waiting there for you. This chaos you feel you’re experiencing is just part of early parenting, accepting it is key to getting through it."
At particularly difficult times, Pinky suggests saying this mantra to yourself:
I need to slow down right now.
Everything else will still be there when I come back to it.
Parenting vs information overload
A mother of five children, Pinky had her babies across three different decades - the '70s, '80s and '90s.
“With my first four kids in the '70s and '80s, there was a lot less guilt and a lot less self-doubt when it came to parenting. You were just trusted to get on with it,” she says.
“But when I had my last baby in the '90s, that’s when the internet first appeared and suddenly there was so much more information accessible. That’s when we began to lose confidence in ourselves as mothers, and our instinct.”
Learn how to listen to yourself
Pinky admits that circumventing the pressure and the judgement from others in regard to your own style of parenting is hard in the early years.
She recommends focusing on three things to stay in touch with your instincts and yourself:
- Only do what you can.
- Does it feel safe?
- Does it feel right for me and my baby?
Pinky also recommends that women who have any big emotions about the way their birth process unfolded get in touch with a GP or counsellor.
"You can go into a lot of questioning around your body when something doesn’t go right with your birth and maybe even your breastfeeding. Giving birth and motherhood is an intrinsic part of our sexuality, and we can feel threatened if things don't go to plan," says Pinky.
"Maybe you feel a sense of regret or failure, or ask yourself what you could have done to get a different result. Reaching out for help is a sign that you care and you’re doing a great job and that you just need a bit of help right now.”
And that is something every new mother needs to hear.
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